So you think you want to run a marathon? The step up to 26.2 miles is one that can be as daunting as it is exciting. Marathon running is on the up, and you don’t have to wait to get a place in a big city race to run the classic distance. Find marathons in your local area, on the trails, travel to experience one overseas…they are all amazing.
The marathon has lots in store for you and for many, it can be life changing. We’ve put together our top ways to make sure you’re ready to increase your mileage and get marathon ready.
While it’s not completely unreasonable to start your running journey by targeting a marathon, many come to the marathon after a few years of running. There’s no escaping the fact a marathon is a long way, and looking at 26.2 miles in one go as a new runner may be daunting. Take account of your experience so far, and ask yourself if you’ve achieved enough over the half marathon or less before you make the commitment.
Most marathon build ups will require between 12-16 weeks of training, depending on your experience. That can be a long road, and it’s great to start your training by asking yourself “why?”. Why do you want to run the marathon? Having a clear purpose for your goal is the key to ongoing motivation. Do you want to run to prove to yourself that you can? Are you going to raise money for a charity? Are you running to support a friend? Is this a challenge you have always wanted? Refining one or two clear reasons for running your marathon is a brilliant way to start.
It’s no good just talking about it. Booking a race and making the commitment, including the financial investment when you pay for your entry, are great motivators. Committing to your marathon gives you the final goal in the form of a date on your calendar. You don’t need to tell everyone that you’ve done it if that makes you nervous, but you’ll get some great accountability for your training as soon as your race entry is confirmed.
A marathon journey is rarely run alone. Your commitment to training needs to be a big one, and that may be at the expense of some other areas of your life. Whether you’re going to end up sacrificing a couple of late night parties, or you’re going to be around less on Sunday mornings for a while, it’s likely your marathon training will have an impact on others. Make sure your family especially are supportive of your goal, share with them your reasons for doing it, and involve them as much as you can. They are likely to be your most important supporters on race day.
This may come as a surprise but you’re going to need to do more than just run. Building a routine that includes regular strength work will pay off in the long term as you count the weeks down and the mileage up. The key is not to wait for your body to break. Start with one workout a week that includes bodyweight or resistance bands and build up to bulletproof your running. Specialist running physiotherapists are great at suggesting simple exercises to help you to avoid injury.
Check out the home workout kit we recommend in our present ideas for runners post over here.
Getting a marathon training cycle right is a long game. It doesn’t work for everyone to just progressively add miles to your training load every week with short-sighted focus. Working with a running coach to create training cycles that allow you to build up, back off, recover and go again will help you to enjoy your training, recover effectively and work towards your marathon carefully. We don’t need to tell you this isn’t a sprint.
Sure, your body matters a lot, but your marathon can be made or broken in your mind. Spend some time growing some mental strength during your training. There are going to be times you’ll need to be mentally strong on race day, and you will meet some obstacles in training too. For some runners, a mantra helps. If that’s you, write your mantra down and remind yourself of it when it gets hard. Remember why you are doing it when things feel tough, and visualise how it will feel to cross the finish line. You can do this.
The marathon is something it’s hard to put into words until you have experienced it. Play the long game and savour the experience on the day. Your race is the final lap of a long journey, so smile and enjoy it.